Wolcott Historical Society News - February 2016
By Florence Goodman
Are you more aware of old barns still standing in our town since my last article? I hope so because I know I am. This month I will share the location and a brief history of five more barns still found in our town.
The Rufus Norton barn is still standing today. It was part of the Rufus Norton Farm located on the northern section of Beecher Road at the intersection of Long Swamp Road. The Norton farm was in existence for over 70 years and covered well over 100 acres of land. Crops grown and animals raised on this farm met the needs of the family. Rufus was killed in the 1930's by one of his bulls. His wife was able to keep the farm going by working as a school bus driver while maintaining the farm. Recently the Bristol Fish and Game Club purchased the house, barn and property, but the Norton family still has use of the property. You can't miss this magnificent barn as you come to the stop sign at Long Swamp and Beecher Roads.
Rufus Norton Barn at the corner of Long Swamp and Beecher Roads.
The Homewood Farm barns are a short trip up Center Street from Woodtick Road. Albert Homewood established Homewood's Happy Hollow Farm in 1873. Albert and his sons, James, Richard and Albin and their families worked hard over the years to maintain this forty-acre farm. Besides chickens, they had several milking cows, boarded horses, raised various crops, and cut hay. Each of the brothers had full time jobs, but worked the farm before and after work. In 2002 after the last brother, Richard, died his son, Rick and nephew, Bill alternated farm duties while working full-time jobs to keep the farm going. They have rebuilt several of the barns and hope to reestablish raising cows on the property in the future. They presently have about twenty-five egg-laying chickens, which are maintained with organic feed. They also still cut hay in the fields. This farm is one of the few working farms that remain in our town today.
The old Homewood Barn on Center Street.
Renovated Homewood Barns on Center Street.
Bock Farm was located at 292 Woodtick Road just south of Frisbie School and is the present location of Bill Gniazdowski Jr.'s sixty-acre Echo Farm. The original section of the house was built around 1895 and is found in the back of the house. The larger gambrel roof section that is in the front of the house was built around 1913 by Mrs. Bock's brothers, the Schindler's. Bill's father and mother purchased the run-down farm from Mrs. Bock in 1935 and turned the property into a large turkey farm from 1940 to 1942. Then from 1943 to 1945 chickens covered this farmland. After raising poultry for five years, Bill Gniazdowski Sr. decided to raise hogs for a short period of time, but was not allowed to bring in any type of garbage to feed them so he moved that venture to Naugatuck. Finally he raised beef cattle on the farm from 1949 to 1962. He had 110 cattle in the herd. In 1962, the Gniazdowski's decided to slow down so they began to lease their largest field to the Wolcott Baseball Association in exchange for the payment of property taxes. This ended in 1986," after the Association and the Gniazdowski's were sued over a 1984 incident in which a boy broke his leg while playing on the field." In 1978, Bill Jr. gave up his career as an insurance adjustor to take over the farm from his parents. Bill Jr. and his dad built a new barn around1979 on the original foundation of the old barn. Then he began planting fifteen acres of blueberries, about 9000 bushes, on the land with the help of his family. Today the farm still houses fields of blueberries, but there are also five greenhouses filled with hot house hybrid tomatoes, lettuce and bedding plants, as well as several fields of other produce such as egg plant, squash, cauliflower, and peppers to sell to local farm markets and local residents from his farm stand. It's wonderful to see this working farm thriving in our town.
Bock/Echo Farm Barn located on Woodtick Road.
The Solomon Alcott house and barn can still be found at the intersection of Beach and Spindle Hill Roads today. Solomon Alcott, the son of John Alcott, built the house in 1790 on the site of the original log cabin that his father built. This site is also the birthplace of Amos Bronson Alcott. John Alcott settled on Spindle Hill in 1731 on 117 acres of land that he purchased from Deacon Josiah Rogers from Branford. At the time this area was a wilderness, but he built a log house for his new bride and began to clear the land for farming. Over time he acquired 1200+ acres of land, much of which he gave to his five sons. The Alcott name is found on deeds from several houses on Spindle Hill and Beach Roads. The Bingham family owns the house and barn where they house much of their crafting equipment and supplies. Mr. Bingham being a blacksmith and Mrs. Bingham a potter.
The original Solomon Alcott House and barn on the corner of Beach/Spindle Hill Roads. This barn is no longer standing.
Solomon Alcott House on the corner of Beach/Spindle Hill Roads. This barn could not be seen in historic picture. The house has also gone through many changes.
The James Alcott Farm also known as Sunnyside was located at the intersection of Spindle Hill and Mad River Roads. James Alcott built this saltbox, farmhouse in 1774. James, another son of John Alcott, sold the house in the late 1800s to Evelyn Upson. The house and farm were the home of Upson until his death in 1918. In that same year, Carl and Helma Peterson purchased the farmhouse at 621 Spindle Hill Road where they established the Peterson Dairy Farm. The dairy was in operation from 1923 until the early 1960's. On January 15, 1962 a fire destroyed the large dairy barn on the property, which housed the dairy cows. Mrs. Hilma Peterson, owner of the dairy was thankful that no lives were lost in the fire, but several animals died in the blaze. Farm equipment was also lost in the blaze; a farm tractor, milking machines and a milk cooler were burned. The Petersons reported that the barn would probably never be rebuilt because there were several other barns still on the property. Today Bonnie Hartigan owns the house and two remaining barns. She has used the barns to stable her horses and to store hay, firewood and other equipment. She is hoping to do some repairs to the barns this year.
James Alcott House and barn on the corner of Spindle Hill and Mad River Roads.
The James Alcott House and barn circa 1900. The barn in the forefront burned in 1962.
These five barns are symbols of our town's farming roots. The fact that they are still standing reminds us of the craftsmen who built them strong to withstand the forces of nature from an earlier time in our history. If you have knowledge of any old barns in our town and would like to share the information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 203-879-9818.
(Information for this article was taken from The 175th Anniversary 1796-1971 by John Washburne, The 1986 Historic Resources Inventory by Paul Loether and from Waterbury American, Tuesday, January 16, 1962 article and my Wolcott News article from August 2010.)
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